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Interview with Empish Thomas, August 16, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:22 - Life before blindness

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Partial Transcript: My name is Empish Thomas, and it's interesting how life's journeys take you around in a complete circle.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes her summer job working for the Office for Civil Rights Department of Health and Human Services where she typed investigative reports and compliance reports for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thomas describes being totally sighted at the time and interacting with disabled coworkers including someone who was blind. She talks about graduating from Florida A&M University before going to work at a public relations firm in Atlanta.

Keywords: Civil Rights Act of 1964; Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Florida A&M University); Government agency; Tallahassee, Florida; civil rights investigators; clerk typist; journalism; section 504 rehabilitation act 1973

00:04:07 - Losing vision

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Partial Transcript: And within six months' time of moving here, I start to lose my vision.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes losing her vision to uveitis which is a condition that causes inflammation in the back of the eye near the retina. She talks about losing her job and finding another where she was able to get accommodations for her worsening vision. Thomas describes going to a vision rehabilitation program to learn about screen reading technology, using a cane, braille, and mobility skills.

Keywords: CCTV; Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act; closed captioning device; eye doctors; light sensitivity; low-vision therapy; magnification; medical insurance; medical treatment; white cane

00:09:11 - Freelance journalism

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Partial Transcript: I went through all of that, came back to work successfully then I got downsized.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes losing her job due to downsizing and deciding to work as a freelance journalist. She talks about expanding her freelance business while also working for a small non-profit. She describes taking a position at a vision rehabilitation center where she worked for ten years before returning to freelance journalism.

Keywords: blind; editors; magazines; marketing; newspapers; nonprofit; public outreach; public relations; the stock market crash of 2008; writing

00:13:01 - Entertainment and civic engagement

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Partial Transcript: Now outside of my work, because work is not all the things that I do, I'm a great lover of books.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes her love of books and talks about how she participates in multiple book clubs and uses the National Library Service (NLS) talking book library, Bookshare, and audio books. She talks about her appreciation for audio-described movies both at the movie theater and on Netflix. She describes her recent involvement in local government where she talks with the mayor and her city councilwoman about making changes locally.

Keywords: World Book encyclopedias; education; family; friends